Bridging Gaps in Healthcare by Connecting Primary Care Providers to Dental Health Resources

There’s been a longtime care gap between medical providers and dental providers, even though oral health and overall health and well-being have proven to be linked. Disadvantaged children with Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage are especially vulnerable with greater health disparities and barriers to dental healthcare access.

A child’s access to medical care versus oral healthcare varies significantly. For example, the median percentage of children from 12 months to 19 years old who have visited a primary care provider (PCP) ranges from 88 percent to 96 percent in 47 U.S. states, according to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicaid and CHIP Health Care Quality Measures. Although some states include dental services in Medicaid benefits, only about half (49%) of eligible children have received any preventive dental service in the last year. The CDC states that oral conditions are often considered separate from other chronic health conditions despite being interrelated. But in reality, poor oral health is proven to be associated with other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

To address whole body health, every child deserves access to routine oral care. That care begins with continuous access to preventive health through a dental home.


Bridging the Dental Health Gap

When families establish relationships with pediatricians, it’s important that they also find a home for their child’s dental health needs. A dental home is an ongoing relationship a child or family forms with a dental provider, much like the one they have with their PCP. Through regular visits every six months following the arrival of a child’s first tooth, patients can receive preventive care to help reduce their risk of dental disease and establish a lifetime of healthy hygiene habits. The earlier in life this relationship begins, the better a child can learn about and receive the benefits of preventive care that helps them avoid oral disease.

To bridge care gaps and improve the trajectory of dental health in America, primary care providers, dentists, and hygienists must work together to set patients up for success. As partners, dental homes and primary care teams can educate children and their families about the significance of oral health on their overall health for well-coordinated care at every life stage.

This relationship is a win-win for patients’ whole health.


Making Dental Homes a Reality

For 20 years, Benevis has created access to affordable, high-quality dental care for children and families. We remain committed to breaking down the barriers of oral healthcare by establishing dental homes in disadvantaged communities across the country. At Benevis, we prioritize dental education to improve patients’ health in communities across the nation. That work begins by collaborating with community-based healthcare providers.

For 13 years, I have been a part of that journey, working together with local healthcare providers and PCPs in the Washington, D.C., area to deliver compassionate, hands-on oral healthcare.

Taking a non-traditional path to dentistry, I started my career as a grade school teacher in New York City. My early experience allowed me to be a different kind of dentist—one who focuses on working with children in need to create positive dental experiences and teachable moments in hygiene and self-care. Recognizing how oral health can impact a child’s overall health, social well-being, and confidence led me to focus on bridging care gaps through the benefit of Dental Homes.

To help primary care physicians and clinicians start their collaborative care journey, the Benevis Dental Home Playbook is a resource with oral risk assessments and management tools, checklists, and helpful patient materials to support them in their daily practice. The Dental Playbook educates healthcare providers on the importance of helping patients establish a dental home for routine dental care.

By arming PCPs and clinicians with this information, dentists can help prevent oral disease in children and remove barriers to equitable access for lifelong health. To view the Dental Home Playbook, click here or to learn more about Benevis’ Dental Homes, click here.

Dr. Jane Whang

Regional Director of Clinical, Benevis